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Stunning find discovered hiding in the ocean’s ‘twilight zone’

By Ashley Strickland, CNN

The ocean depths are as mysterious as the infinite abyss of space beyond our planet.

Every time we dive beneath the waves, or those waves surface an unusual creature, we learn something new about the water covering more than 70% of Earth’s surface.

Only around 20% of the ocean floor has been mapped, according to UNESCO. That means there is so much more to be discovered.

Scientists had a glimpse of what that may entail when they happened upon a remarkable marine rarity in November, found at previously unimaginable depths.

There may be a whole new world of undiscovered ecosystems in the ocean — we just have to dive down to meet them.

Ocean secrets

Within the ocean’s “twilight zone,” where just enough light can reach to sustain life, there is a perfectly pristine coral reef that stretches for nearly 2 miles (3.2 kilometers).

The reef and its stunning rose-shaped corals were found off the coast of Tahiti. So far, it has been entirely untouched by the climate crisis.

Warming oceans have been the cause of widespread coral bleaching, and scientists predict about 70% to 90% of all living coral will disappear in the next 20 years. Coral reefs are crucial to Earth’s biodiversity, serving as a food source and a habitat for many ocean creatures.

But the discovery of this reef provides hope. As divers spend hours uncovering its many wonders, the new reef could hold the secret to saving other endangered habitats under the sea.

Other worlds

Flight delays can happen on other planets, too.

An unusually strong storm has postponed the 19th flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. The little chopper and its pal, the Perseverance rover, hunkered down as a regional dust storm overtook their parking spot in Jezero Crater at the beginning of the year.

The storm has dissipated, and Ingenuity is ready to take to the Martian skies again on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover made an unexpected find on Mars — and the potential existence of ancient life may be just one possible explanation for the discovery.

Fantastic creatures

If you’re familiar with the fictional character Paddington Bear, then you may know about the real animal he’s based on — the only species of its kind that lives in South America.

The enigmatic spectacled bear, rarely captured on camera, is vulnerable and has a dwindling population due to severe drought and deforestation brought on by climate change.

But conservationists have come up with a way to help these creatures of the cloud forest, using something they love: honey.

Spectacled bears aren’t the only species that researchers are trying to understand. This week, scientific sleuths cracked the code on how giant pandas are able to stay chubby, despite their poor diets.

Wild kingdom

A new type of tarantula has been found in Thailand, and the spider has specific tastes about where it likes to live: exclusively inside hollow bamboo stems.

Thai wildlife enthusiast and YouTube star JoCho Sippawat spotted the spider during a forest trip in Mae Tho, a village in the northwest. Entirely distinct from all other tarantulas, it’s been named Taksinus bambus in honor of the 18th-century Thai king Taksin the Great.

In other news, scientists have identified a tarantula-killing worm and named it for a very different personality: actor Jeff Daniels. It’s a nod to his role in the cult classic “Arachnophobia,” a comedy horror film where his character saves a town from a spider infestation.

A long time ago

Long live the drinking straw, which has apparently been around for at least 5,000 years.

Researchers believe they have finally resolved a case of mistaken identity surrounding “scepters” recovered from a burial mound in the northern Caucasus in Russia.

The comically extended tubes, each longer than a yardstick, are actually the world’s oldest surviving drinking straws. The fancy thirst quenchers were made from gold and silver, decorated with figurines, and include punctured metal pieces to filter out impurities.

The straws had a special purpose: enabling the communal drinking of a staggering amount of beer.

Curiosities

Don’t miss these attention-getters:

— This 80 million-year-old dinosaur was lonesome, built like a “living fortress” and hard of hearing.

— Scientists shared the time on the Doomsday Clock this week, metaphorically revealing how close humanity is to destroying the world.

— In a cosmic plot twist, astronomers found a black hole that is nurturing the birth of stars, rather than devouring them for dinner.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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